BENGALURU: With more than 10 million cases every year in India, Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is one of the most common infections affecting women. Yet people are still unaware of its symptoms and causes. It is reported that more than 50% women experience UTI at least once in their lifetime and nearly 30- 40% of these infections relapse within six months.
But of course, a little precaution, hygiene and early diagnosis can go a long way in curbing the infection to a large extent.
What is UTI?
Urinary Tract infection is an infection of the urinary tract that includes the kidneys, the urinary bladder and the urethra (urinary tube). The symptoms depend on which part of the urinary tract is infected. The urine is generally sterile but can get infected when microorganisms enter the urinary bladder and multiply to cause UTI.
Why Women Stand a Higher Risk?
Most common culprit for UTI is the E-coli, a bacterium that is excreted with the human feces. In women, the proximity of the urethra and anus facilitate easy passage of the bacteria into the urinary tract. It is important to note that young sexually active women are more prone to UTI as sexual activity is the cause of 75–90% of bladder infections. UTI is a very commonly seen in newly married women and has been aptly termed 'Honeymoon cystitis'.
Taking Precaution during Pregnancy
Pregnant women have high-levels of progesterone, a hormone that stimulates the uterus to prepare for pregnancy. This decreases muscle tone of the ureters and bladder, which in turn can lead to reflux, where urine flows back up the ureters and towards the kidneys. A kidney infection during pregnancy can increase the complications and may lead to premature birth or pre-eclampsia (a state of high blood pressure and kidney dysfunction during pregnancy that can lead to seizures).
Symptoms of UTI
■ Burning sensation while passing urine
■ Increased frequency of urination
■ Strong odor of urine
■ Blood in urine
■ Abdominal discomfort
■ Back pain, fever, chills and nausea might occur if the infection spreads to the kidneys
If left untreated, Urinary Tract Infections can have serious consequences. An untreated UTI can cause acute kidney infection and result in permanent kidney damage. The infection may also recur repeatedly especially in women if proper precautions and treatment are not taken.
■ Drink 3 litres of fluids everyday, sipping at intervals of 30-45 minutes. This is the best method to keep this disease at bay.
■ Do not hold the urine for a long time. Even though the urine is sterile, holding the urine back for long time provides it to be a good habitat for the microorganisms to grow and multiply.
■ Clean the genital area and void after intercourse.
■ Before washing the undergarments, dip them into anti bacterial solution for half an hour or so.
Antibiotics are prescribed for a UTI infection and it is highly recommended to complete the full course of the medicine even if symptoms and irritation persist during the course. It is advised to consult a doctor if any of the symptoms or signs of UTI are identified and not veil behind any social stigma. Right diagnosis and the right treatment ensure cure and reduced suffering.
(The author is Senior Consultant, Urology & Transplant Surgeon, Fortis Hospital)